The fabulous fellow swimmer Nadia loaned me her copy of Swim: Why We Love the Water by Lynn Sherr (2012) recently. [How fabulous is Nadia? Check out this cool swim shirt she found for us! ]. Like my t-shirt, Nadia thought I’d like Sherr’s book, and she’s right – especially because it’s a little different than the standard “written by a swimmer” swim book.
Swim does rely on one typical swim book narration tactic however; it begins with Sherr in the middle of an open water race. The author then back tracks within each subsequent chapter to relate training for and swimming Hellespont (modern name: the Dardanelles), the channel that separates Europe from Asia. With famous Hellespont crossings as her springboard (think: Leander and Lord Byron), Sherr then offers essays on the sport’s history (e.g. evolution of the four strokes, suits), and musings (e.g. swimming’s rise in popularity as reflected in songs and movies), with glimpses of Sherr’s crossing providing cohesion.
Sherr, a long-time professional journalist, broadcaster and swimmer, is suited to personally share her passion for the sport. Well researched and written with humor, Swim stands out from other swim books largely due to it’s historical bent. Swim entices you to read the classic poems and myths referenced, view the artwork and pop-culture cited, and of course, see all of the mentioned exotic open water views from the swimmer’s perspective!
Swim is chock full of fun factoids (e.g. which U.S. presidents were avid swimmers and where they swam), one-page anecdotes, and tons of interesting images – nearly one per page, if not more. It’s also stuffed with statistics (e.g. growth in home pool construction from WWII to 1970), although some of the latter numbers, snapshots from 2000 on, already seem outdated.
Just under 200 pages, Swim is a fast read, but its essay format also means one can pick it up at random and read a bit at a time. And, if the book whets your appetite for reading up on all things swim-related, there’s a robust bibliography and sources lists to choose from included at the end.